Stemilt Growers can’t call its produce USDA Certified Organic until they grow without chemicals for three years, but that isn’t stopping them from branding their produce “Artisan Naturals” in the interim. The three year chemical-free transition period is marked by insect infestations, infertile soil, and poor crop quality, which conspire to ravage a farm’s profitability. Stemilt, one of the nation’s largest apple growers, is hoping that consumers will pay a price premium for “natural” produce, which will likely be confused for USDA certified organic produce.
The orchard is in its second year of transition to organic, but the fruit will be sold under Stemilt’s Artisan Naturals label, promoting its naturally farmed history.
“On produce, food safety is an expectation, and I think the organic sector has higher expectations and we understand that, but we think for naturally farmed products, the first expectation is flavor,” said Roger Pepperl, Stemilt director of marketing. “We get a little more because it’s a premium product, and we position it as being a premium product.
“But people assume good things when they hear natural, naturally farmed,” he said.
Stemilt expects only 25% of its apple crop to qualify for organic certification in the next ten years. It is a shame to see the notoriously flimsy USDA certification process treated as a lofty aspirational standard thanks to deceptive marketing efforts like “artisan naturals.”
Almost-organic fruit may still fetch a pretty penny [AP]
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)